Social and environmental responsibility
An Anglo American case study

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Page 2: Sustainable development

Sustainable development is ´passing on to future generations a stock of 'capital' that is at least as great as the one our generation inherited´.

Sustainable development is based on respect for:

  • one another, everyone who shares our planet
  • future generations (what is called 'inter-generational equity'), as well as the existing one
  • for nature itself for plants, animals and all life forms.

Exploitation of natural resources is essential for economic growth. For many poorer, developing countries, the development of these resources is the only means of attracting foreign investment and wider development. This in turn helps to fight poverty.  We all use natural resources. For example in:

  • heating our homes
  • travelling to work or school
  • leisure activities (e.g. gym equipment has metal components).

Anglo American is a major provider of raw materials. To support sustainability, it must try to balance using 'natural' capital, such as iron ore, with activities that enhance skills, opportunities, health and education for local people. These may benefit them directly through community projects or indirectly through paying taxes and royalties.

Sustainable development priniciples

Anglo American has created a set of sustainable development principles that underpin the way it seeks to do business. These are to:

  • be ethical, efficient and create value for its stakeholders
  • create meaningful employment in safe, healthy environments
  • reduce its environmental footprintand contribute to biodiversity
  • increase innovation, technologyand process improvement
  • contribute towards building more adaptable societies in the communities where it operates.

Sustainability programmes

The following examples illustrate how these principles work in practice.

Anglo American places a strong emphasis on Safety and Health. The mining industry has major safety challenges, including a substantial number of fatalities. Anglo American is seeking to address these through creating a 'zero mindset'. This means that the total elimination of accidents and injury is the goal. There is a supporting principle of 'zero repeats'. If an accident occurs, it should never happen again. All employees are expected to follow these rules. They are simple and non-negotiable standards.

Anglo American works in a number of countries where water is scarce, including Chile, Australia and South Africa. The Emalahleni water treatment plant in South Africa purifies waste water from coal mines into drinking water for use by the Emalahleni community. At the Kleinkopje colliery in South Africa water from mining activity is treated and used for farming projects such as growing beans. In the UK, Tarmac avoids using water from drinkable sources. Instead, it uses water resulting from industrial processes wherever possible.

It is important to note that Anglo American works in partnership to achieve many of its projects. This means it works with both governments and private companies, and with community groups or international donors to ensure that the capacities and networks of local communities are enhanced.

In South Africa Anglo American has the largest directly delivered workplace HIV/AIDS treatment programmes in the world. It took the lead in providing medical help for its HIV employees at a time when the government was not prepared to provide life-saving drugs. It provides free drugs to about 4,500 employees as well as extensive community prevention and treatment programmes.

Anglo American sees technology transfer and capacity building as significant elements in helping local communities to grow economically. In Venezuela, it has created experimental farms for the transfer of horticultural and agricultural knowledge. In Chile, it has worked with goat farmers and beekeepers to improve techniques and product marketing. In South Africa and Chile, the company's programmes generate new small businesses through supply chain opportunities, training, mentoring and access to finance.

Anglo American | Social and environmental responsibility